At the beginning of every year, many dojos celebrate a ceremony to start the year with a new spirit and intense energy. This is usually a ceremony to introduce the year with a spirit of camaraderie and unity. The class is usually very difficult and full of kiais (shouts) with many basic techniques. In most traditional dojos, preparation for the new year's season begins as in most households. Toward the end of the year dojos are cleaned, repairs made, mirrors shined and everything made tidy. In Japan many dojos retain the tradition of a purification ceremony. Salt is thrown throughout the dojo, as salt is a traditional symbol of purity (goodness and virtue), and then brushed away with pine boughs.
For martial arts students today, however, the New Year's celebration of Kigami Biraki does not carry religious significance. It does, however, continue the old samurai tradition of kicking off the new year. It is also a time when the participants join together and rededicate their spirit, effort and discipline toward goals, such as training.
Many of us start off the new year with a slew of resolutions, only to have forgotten them in a month's time. Because of the nature of training, meaning that the journey is what is paramount not the destination, the significance of Kagami Biraki lies in the fact that we take each year as a another part of our personal journey towards perfection of self. For us as practitioners of a martial art it is a time to renovate, reflect, and recommit ourselves to the training we have dedicated ourselves to.
It is not just a physical act of intense training, but also one of profound contemplation. It is my heartfelt desire that this year all of my students surpass the goals they have set for themselves.
Wishing all a New Year full of possibility and adventure,
strong spirit-strong mind-strong body
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